Teen animal-lovers will flock to share Diana Reiss’s passion for dolphins. Show them the Dolphin and the Mirror Experiment on YouTube, and watch the dolphins realize that they are looking at a reflection of themselves.
Reiss is currently the director of Dolphin Research at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, and was an adviser on the 2009 film The Cove. For more about Reiss and her research, take a look at this New York Times article, “Studying the Big-Brained Dolphin“.
Adult/High School–Reiss illustrates how dolphins have long captured human interest and imagination, featured prominently in mythology as well as in popular media. Her interest in cetacean intelligence was sparked by a New York Times article on the killing of whales and dolphins. This book chronicles her behavioral research with numerous dolphins, mostly in captivity, beginning in the late 1970s. She writes engagingly about the subjects to which she became emotionally attached, a point she argues made her a better, more in-tune researcher. Now director of dolphin research at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Reiss describes the process of developing a hypothesis, devising a method for testing it, and following through in repeated trials. Early work showed communication via an underwater keyboard for requesting desired toys, while later research proved self-awareness using submerged mirrors. Teens with an interest in animal behavior will find themselves caught up in her fascinating findings and anecdotes. Readers will be intrigued by Circe, who issued a “time out” to Dr. Reiss when her fish hadn’t been properly de-finned, and Stormy, who perfected the art of blowing bubble rings for her own amusement. The book ends on a somber note, as the author details fishing practices that endanger the species. She implores readers to become activists and take a stand against dolphin drives in Japan, which result in the inhumane deaths of thousands of animals each year. After reading this book, teens may be motivated to lend their voices to the cause.–Paula J. Gallagher, Baltimore County Public Library, MD